housing, Legal, News

Air Conditioners: A Hot Topic for Tenants and Landlords

Re-posted from ON THE RADAR, a publication of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

As summer heats up, it’s a good time for tenants to pull out their leases and review the rules about air conditioners.

This month’s On the Radar looks at the different ways air conditioning can be handled in a lease.

What a lease might say

A lease can say different things about air conditioning, including:

  • it’s provided by the landlord
  • the tenant can install their own
  • all air conditioners or certain types are banned
  • nothing at all

If there isn’t a lease, the rules depend on what was said when the tenant and landlord made a verbal rental agreement.

When the landlord provides air conditioning

When the landlord provides air conditioning, they must make sure it works properly and repair it if it breaks.

The cost of running the air conditioner may be:

  • included in the rent, or
  • added as an extra charge.

Included in the rent

Most leases say whether the cost of air conditioning is included in the rent.

But some are less clear. For example, some leases say that electricity is included. But tenants need the landlord’s permission to install or use an air conditioner or extra appliances. The Landlord and Tenant Board usually says that if this is in the lease, the cost of running the air conditioning is not included in the rent.

Added as an extra charge

It’s sometimes legal for a landlord to charge extra rent for air conditioning. But the amount cannot be more than:

  • the actual cost to the landlord of running the air conditioner, or
  • a “reasonable amount” based on the value of the service if the landlord cannot show the actual cost.

Tenants should ask their landlord for copies of electricity bills. They’ll need these if they don’t agree with the amount of extra rent the landlord charges.

It’s not legal for a landlord to charge extra rent if the tenant pays for their own electricity.

When the tenant can install their own air conditioner

Many leases say that tenants must have their landlord’s permission to install an air conditioner. It’s best for the tenant to ask in writing and keep a copy for their records. If the landlord refuses, see the section below on banned air conditioners.

Landlords can charge extra rent if tenants install air conditioners only if electricity is included in the rent. And the amount cannot be more than:

  • the actual cost of the electricity, or
  • a “reasonable amount” if the landlord cannot show how much electricity the air conditioner is using.

But if the lease says electricity is included and does not say anything about air conditioners or getting permission, air conditioning is included in the rent.

Even if the lease does not require it, it’s a good idea to have a professional install the air conditioner. This is especially true for window-mounted air conditioners, which can be dangerous if not installed properly. Tenants should keep a copy of the technician’s invoice in case the landlord asks for proof.

A landlord cannot remove an air conditioner owned by a tenant, as long as it was installed properly and is not disturbing others.

When air conditioners are banned

Landlords are increasingly trying to prevent tenants from installing window-mounted air conditioners. It’s legal for a landlord to put this in a lease when a tenant first moves in.

But landlords cannot refuse certain types of air conditioners unless the lease mentions them. Despite what some landlords say, there are no laws that ban certain types of air conditioners.

What tenants can do

If a landlord says no to air conditioners, the tenant can offer to have the air conditioner installed by a professional and inspected on a regular basis.

Tenants can also write to their landlord to explain any medical conditions or disabilities that are made worse by hotter temperatures. If their unit is too hot, tenants should check it using a thermometer and take a picture of the exact temperature.

If a tenant takes these steps and the landlord still refuses, they should get legal advice.

When a lease says nothing about air conditioning

If air conditioning is already installed, tenants can assume they can use it:

  • at no extra charge, as long as electricity is included in their rent and the lease does not say they need the landlord’s permission to use extra appliances
  • at their own cost, if electricity is not included in their rent

If air conditioning is not already installed, a tenant can install their own air conditioner. But they should tell their landlord and have it done by a professional. If electricity is included in the rent, so is the cost of running an air conditioner. Or, the tenant can ask their landlord to install an air conditioner. See the information above about how much landlords can charge.

This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.

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